Women in the United States Senate

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There have been 44[1] women in the United States Senate since the establishment of that body in 1789. The first woman senator, Rebecca Felton, served in 1922 (for a single day), but the first woman elected to the Senate was Hattie Caraway in 1932. Fourteen of the women who have served were appointed; seven of those were appointed to succeed their deceased husbands. Currently, the 114th Congress has 20 female senators, the same number as in the 113th Congress.[2]


By the 111th Congress (2009-2011), the number of women senators had increased to 17, including four Republicans and 13 Democrats.

Throughout most of the Senate's history, that legislative chamber has been almost entirely male. Until 1920, few women ran for the Senate. Until the 1990s, very few were elected. This paucity of women was due to many factors, including the lack of women's suffrage in many states until ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, women's limited access to higher education until the mid-1900s, public perceptions of gender roles, and barriers to women's advancement such as sex discrimination, which still plays a factor in their limited numbers today.

The first woman in the Senate was Rebecca Latimer Felton who served for only one day in 1922. Hattie Caraway of Arkansas became the first woman to win election to the Senate, in 1932. No women served from 1922 to 1931, 1945 to 1947, and 1973 to 1978. Since 1978, there has always been at least one woman in the Senate.

There were still few women in the Senate near the end of the 20th century, long after women began to make up a significant portion of the membership of the House. In fact, the first time there were three women in the Senate simultaneously was in 1992, when Jocelyn Burdick of North Dakota, joined Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. The number increased to four in November, when Dianne Feinstein won a special election in California.

This trend began to change in the wake of the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings, and the subsequent election of the 103rd Congress in 1992, which was dubbed the "Year of the Woman."[3] In addition to Mikulski, who was reelected that year, four women were elected to the Senate, all Democrats. They were Patty Murray of Washington, Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, and Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both of California. In June 1993, Kay Bailey Hutchison won a special election in Texas, and joined Kassebaum as a fellow female Republican senator. These additions significantly diminished the popular perception of the Senate as an exclusive "boys' club."

Since then, many more women in both the Democratic and Republican parties have campaigned for the Senate, and several have been elected. Of the 31 women who have ever been elected 20 are currently serving in the 114th Congress (2015-2016).

Cumulatively, 29 female senators have been Democrats, while 17 have been Republicans. Of the 20 female senators now serving, 14 are Democrats and 6 are Republicans.

Women senators for the 114th Congress

In January 2013, the number of serving women senators increased to 20: 16 Democrats and 4 Republicans. Republican Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) did not seek re-election in 2012, while five new women senators were elected: Republican Deb Fischer (Nebraska) and Democrats Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts).[4] In the 2014 election the total number of women in the Senate remained at 20, but the partisan makeup changed, as Democratic Senators Kay Hagan (North Carolina) and Mary Landrieu (Louisiana) were defeated for re-election while Republicans Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) were newly elected.

For three states, California, Washington, and New Hampshire, both senators are women. California's two senators (Boxer and Feinstein) were the first two women to be elected to the U.S. Senate in the same election (in 1992) from the same state. Ten female senators had previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives - a distinction long held by only Margaret Chase Smith - Sens. Mikulski, Boxer, Snowe, Lincoln, Stabenow, Cantwell, Gillibrand, Baldwin, Hirono and Moore Capito.

Class State Name Party Prior Experience First took
3 Alaska Lisa Murkowski Republican Alaska House of Representatives 2002 1957
1 California Dianne Feinstein Democrat President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Mayor of San Francisco 1992 1933
3 California Barbara Boxer Democrat Marin County Board of Supervisors, U.S. House of Representatives 1993 1940
1 Hawaii Mazie Hirono Democrat U.S. House of Representatives, Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii, Hawaii House of Representatives 2013 1947
2 Iowa Joni Ernst Republican Montgomery County Auditor; Iowa Senate 2015 1970
2 Maine Susan Collins Republican Deputy Maine Treasurer; gubernatorial nominee 1997 1952
3 Maryland Barbara Mikulski Democrat Baltimore City Council, U.S. House of Representatives 1987 1936
1 Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren Democrat Harvard University Law Professor, Special Adviser to the President for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau 2013 1949
1 Michigan Debbie Stabenow Democrat Michigan House of Representatives, Michigan Senate, U.S. House of Representatives 2001 1950
1 Minnesota Amy Klobuchar Democratic-Farmer-Labor Hennepin County Attorney 2007 1960
1 Missouri Claire McCaskill Democrat Missouri House of Representatives, Jackson County Legislature, Jackson County, Missouri Prosecutor, State Auditor of Missouri 2007 1953
1 Nebraska Deb Fischer Republican Nebraska Legislature 2013 1951
2 New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen Democrat New Hampshire Senate, Governor of New Hampshire 2009 1947
3 New Hampshire Kelly Ayotte Republican New Hampshire Attorney General 2011 1968
1 New York Kirsten Gillibrand Democrat U.S. House of Representatives 2009 1966
1 North Dakota Heidi Heitkamp Democrat North Dakota Attorney General, North Dakota Tax Commissioner 2013 1955
3 Washington Patty Murray Democrat Washington Senate 1993 1950
1 Washington Maria Cantwell Democrat Washington House of Representatives, U.S. House of Representatives 2001 1958
2 West Virginia Shelley Moore Capito Republican West Virginia House of Delegates, U.S. House of Representatives 2015 1953
1 Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin Democrat Wisconsin State Assembly, U.S. House of Representatives 2013 1962

Election, selection and family

Before 2001, numerically speaking, the most common way for a woman to ascend to the U.S. Senate was to have been appointed there following the death or resignation of a husband or father who previously held the seat. An example is Muriel Humphrey (D-MN), the widow of former senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey; she was appointed to fill his seat until a special election was held (in which she did not run). However, with the election of three women in 2000, the balance shifted: More women have now entered service as a senator by winning their seats outright than by being appointed to the body.[citation needed]

Recent examples of selection include Jean Carnahan and Lisa Murkowski. In 2000, Jean Carnahan (D-MO) was appointed to fill the Senate seat won by her recently deceased husband, Mel Carnahan. Carnahan—even though dead—defeated the incumbent senator, John Ashcroft. Carnahan's widow was named to fill his seat by Missouri Governor Roger Wilson until a special election was held. However, she lost the subsequent 2002 election to fill out the rest of the six-year term. In 2002, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was appointed by her father Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski, who had resigned from the Senate to become governor, to serve the remaining two years of his term. Lisa Murkowski defeated former governor Tony Knowles in her reelection bid in 2004.

Two recent members of the Senate brought with them a combination of name recognition resulting from the political careers of their famous husbands and their own substantial experience in public affairs. The first, former Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), is married to former Senate Majority Leader and 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole and served as Secretary of Transportation under President Ronald Reagan and Secretary of Labor under President George H. W. Bush; she later ran a losing bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. The other, former Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), wife of former President Bill Clinton, was First Lady of the United States and First Lady of Arkansas before taking her seat in 2000. She too ran an unsuccessful campaign for her party's presidential nomination in 2008; she resigned in 2009 to become the secretary of state for the eventual victor of that election, Barack Obama.

Another famous name is Nancy Landon Kassebaum, the daughter of former Kansas governor and one-time presidential candidate Alf Landon. After retiring from the Senate, she married former Senator Howard Baker (R-TN). Kassebaum has the distinction of being the first female elected senator who did not succeed her husband in Congress (Margaret Chase Smith was only elected to the Senate after succeeding her husband to his House seat). At the time of her retirement in 1997, Kassebaum was the second longest serving female senator, after Smith (though now that five other women senators have since served longer tenures, she is now seventh).

Firsts and onlies

Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) holds several distinctions for women in the U.S. Congress: She served in the Senate for 24 years, longer than any other female senator until Barbara Mikulski eclipsed her record in 2011; she was the first woman ever elected to both the U.S. House and Senate (she was first elected to the House in 1940 after the unexpected death of her husband, who himself was a member of the House of Representatives, and she served there for eight years before winning the Senate seat by a landslide); she was the first woman to hold a Senate Leadership position; and she also won her 1960 race for Senate in the nation's first ever race pitting two women against each other for a Senate seat.

Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire holds the distinction of being the first woman elected both governor and senator of a state.

Houses served

Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) arrived in the Senate in 1995, having previously served in the House of Representatives and both houses of the Maine state legislature. She and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan are the only women to have served in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of the federal legislature.

Defeated incumbents

In 1992, Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL) became the first woman to defeat an incumbent senator when she toppled Senator Alan Dixon in the Democratic primary. Later that year, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was the first woman to defeat an incumbent senator from a different party when she defeated appointed Senator John Seymour in a special election. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) duplicated Feinstein's feat in 1993, toppling appointed Senator Bob Krueger in a special election. In 2000, Stabenow (D-MI) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) became the first women to defeat incumbent elected senators in a general election, unseating Senators Spencer Abraham and Slade Gorton respectively. In 2008, Kay Hagan became the first woman to unseat a female incumbent, Elizabeth Dole.

Senators from the same state

The first time two female senators from the same state served concurrently was Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (both D-CA), both elected in 1992, with Feinstein taking office that same year (as the result of a special election) and Boxer taking office in 1993. For a brief time, there were two female senators from Kansas serving concurrently, when Nancy Kassebaum and Sheila Frahm briefly served together after Frahm's appointment in 1996; Frahm did not win election to the seat and left office later the same year. Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins served concurrently from 1997, when Collins entered office, to 2013, when Snowe retired. In Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have also served concurrently since 2001, when Cantwell entered office. Upon the opening of the 112th Congress, New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen was joined by newly elected Republican Kelly Ayotte, making the first female tandem senators that do not belong to the same party.

List of states represented by women

This is a map of states that have been represented by women in the United States Senate.
  Both a Democrat and a Republican
Eight Democratic women senators appear at the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver. It has become a tradition at Democratic conventions for incumbent women senators to appear on opening night.

Twenty-seven states have been represented by female senators. In 2009, North Carolina became the first state to have been represented by female senators of both parties, and the first to have a female senator succeeded by a female senator from the other party. In 2011, New Hampshire became the second state to be represented by female senators from both parties, and the first to have female senators of both parties serving concurrently.

State Current Previous Total
Alabama 0 2 2
Alaska 1 0 1
Arkansas 0 2 2
California 2 0 2
Florida 0 1 1
Georgia 0 1 1
Hawaii 1 0 1
Illinois 0 1 1
Iowa 1 0 1
Kansas 0 2 2
Louisiana 0 3 3
Maine 1 2 3
Maryland 1 0 1
Massachusetts 1 0 1
Michigan 1 0 1
Minnesota 1 1 2
Missouri 1 1 2
Nebraska 1 2 3
New Hampshire 2 0 2
New York 1 1 2
North Carolina 0 2 2
North Dakota 1 1 2
Oregon 0 1 1
South Dakota 0 2 2
Texas 0 1 1
Washington 2 0 2
West Virginia 1 0 1
Wisconsin 1 0 1

List of female senators

Senator State From To Length of
service (days)
Entered the Senate Reason for leaving Party
Sen. Felton Felton, Rebecca LatimerRebecca Latimer Felton[5] Georgia November 21, 1922 November 22, 1922 1 Appointment Appointment ended Democratic
Sen. Caraway Caraway, HattieHattie Caraway Arkansas December 9, 1931 January 3, 1945 4,774 Appointment Lost renomination Democratic
Sen. Long McConnell Long, RoseRose McConnell Long Louisiana January 31, 1936 January 2, 1937 337 Appointment Appointment ended Democratic
Sen. Graves Bibb Graves, DixieDixie Bibb Graves Alabama August 20, 1937 January 10, 1938 143 Appointment Appointment ended Democratic
Sen. Pyle Pyle, GladysGladys Pyle South Dakota November 9, 1938 January 3, 1939 55 Special election Retired Republican
Sen. Bushfield Bushfield, Vera C.Vera C. Bushfield South Dakota October 6, 1948 December 26, 1948 81 Appointment Appointment ended Republican
Sen. Smith Chase Smith, MargaretMargaret Chase Smith Maine January 3, 1949 January 3, 1973 8,766 Election Lost re-election Republican
Sen. Bowring Bowring, Eva KellyEva Kelly Bowring Nebraska April 16, 1954 November 7, 1954 205 Appointment Appointment ended Republican
Sen. Abel Hampel Abel, HazelHazel Hampel Abel Nebraska November 8, 1954 December 31, 1954 53 Special election Retired, and resigned early[n 1] Republican
Sen. Neuberger Brown Neuberger, MaurineMaurine Brown Neuberger Oregon November 9, 1960 January 3, 1967 2,246 Special election Retired Democratic
Sen. Edwards Edwards, ElaineElaine Edwards Louisiana August 1, 1972 November 13, 1972 104 Appointment Appointment ended Democratic
Sen. Humphrey Humphrey, MurielMuriel Humphrey Minnesota January 25, 1978 November 7, 1978 286 Appointment Appointment ended Democratic
Sen. Allen Pittman Allen, MaryonMaryon Pittman Allen Alabama June 8, 1978 November 7, 1978 152 Appointment Lost nomination to finish term Democratic
Sen. Kassebaum Landon Kassebaum, NancyNancy Landon Kassebaum Kansas December 23, 1978 January 3, 1997 6,586 Election Retired Republican
Sen. Hawkins Hawkins, PaulaPaula Hawkins Florida January 1, 1981 January 3, 1987 2,193 Election Lost re-election Republican
Sen. Mikulski Mikulski, BarbaraBarbara Mikulski Maryland January 3, 1987 Present 11,639 Election Incumbent Democratic
Sen. Burdick Burdick, JocelynJocelyn Burdick North Dakota September 16, 1992 December 14, 1992 89 Appointment Appointment ended Democratic
Sen. Feinstein Feinstein, DianneDianne Feinstein California November 10, 1992 Present 9,501 Special election Incumbent Democratic
Sen. Boxer Boxer, BarbaraBarbara Boxer California January 3, 1993 Present 9,447 Election Incumbent Democratic
Sen. Murray Murray, PattyPatty Murray Washington January 3, 1993 Present 9,447 Election Incumbent Democratic
Sen. Moseley Braun Moseley Braun, CarolCarol Moseley Braun Illinois January 3, 1993 January 3, 1999 2,191 Election Lost re-election Democratic
Sen. Hutchison Bailey Hutchison, KayKay Bailey Hutchison Texas June 14, 1993 January 3, 2013 7,143 Special election Retired Republican
Sen. Snowe Snowe, OlympiaOlympia Snowe Maine January 3, 1995 January 3, 2013 6,575 Election Retired Republican
Sen. Frahm Frahm, SheilaSheila Frahm Kansas June 11, 1996 November 6, 1996 148 Appointment Lost nomination to finish term Republican
Sen. Collins Collins, SusanSusan Collins Maine January 3, 1997 Present 7,986 Election Incumbent Republican
Sen. Landrieu Landrieu, MaryMary Landrieu Louisiana January 3, 1997 January 3, 2015 6,575 Election Lost re-election Democratic
Sen. Lincoln Lincoln, BlancheBlanche Lincoln Arkansas January 3, 1999 January 3, 2011 4,383 Election Lost re-election Democratic
Sen. Cantwell Cantwell, MariaMaria Cantwell Washington January 3, 2001 Present 6,525 Election Incumbent Democratic
Sen. Carnahan Carnahan, JeanJean Carnahan Missouri January 3, 2001 November 25, 2002 691 Appointment Lost election to finish term Democratic
Sen. Clinton Rodham Clinton, HillaryHillary Rodham Clinton New York January 3, 2001 January 21, 2009 2,940 Election Resigned to become United States Secretary of State Democratic
Sen. Stabenow Stabenow, DebbieDebbie Stabenow Michigan January 3, 2001 Present 6,525 Election Incumbent Democratic
Sen. Murkowski Murkowski, LisaLisa Murkowski Alaska December 20, 2002 Present 5,809 Appointment Incumbent Republican
Sen. Dole Dole, ElizabethElizabeth Dole North Carolina January 3, 2003 January 3, 2009 2,192 Election Lost re-election Republican
Sen. Klobuchar Klobuchar, AmyAmy Klobuchar Minnesota January 3, 2007 Present 4,334 Election Incumbent Democratic
Sen. McCaskill McCaskill, ClaireClaire McCaskill Missouri January 3, 2007 Present 4,334 Election Incumbent Democratic
Sen. Shaheen Shaheen, JeanneJeanne Shaheen New Hampshire January 3, 2009 Present 3,603 Election Incumbent Democratic
Sen. Gillibrand Gillibrand, KirstenKirsten Gillibrand New York January 26, 2009 Present 3,580 Appointment Incumbent Democratic
Sen. Hagan Hagan, KayKay Hagan North Carolina January 3, 2009 January 3, 2015 2,191 Election Lost re-election Democratic
Sen. Ayotte Ayotte, KellyKelly Ayotte New Hampshire January 3, 2011 Present 2,873 Election Incumbent Republican
Sen. Baldwin Baldwin, TammyTammy Baldwin Wisconsin January 3, 2013 Present 2,142 Election Incumbent Democratic
Sen. Fischer Fischer, DebDeb Fischer Nebraska January 3, 2013 Present 2,142 Election Incumbent Republican
Sen. Heitkamp Heitkamp, HeidiHeidi Heitkamp North Dakota January 3, 2013 Present 2,142 Election Incumbent Democratic
Sen. Hirano Hirono, MazieMazie Hirono Hawaii January 3, 2013 Present 2,142 Election Incumbent Democratic
Sen. Warren Warren, ElizabethElizabeth Warren Massachusetts January 3, 2013 Present 2,142 Election Incumbent Democratic
Sen. Capito Moore Capito, ShelleyShelley Moore Capito West Virginia January 3, 2015 Present 1,412 Election Incumbent Republican
Sen. Ernst Ernst, JoniJoni Ernst Iowa January 3, 2015 Present 1,412 Election Incumbent Republican



Starting Total Graph
March 4, 1789 0  
November 21, 1922 1 *
November 23, 1922 0  
December 9, 1931 1 *
January 31, 1936 2 **
January 3, 1937 1 *
August 20, 1937 2 **
January 11, 1938 1 *
November 9, 1938 2 **
January 4, 1939 1 *
January 4, 1945 0  
October 6, 1948 1 *
December 27, 1948 0  
January 3, 1949 1 *
April 16, 1954 2 **
January 1, 1955 1 *
November 9, 1960 2 **
January 4, 1967 1 *
August 1, 1972 2 **
November 14, 1972 1 *
January 4, 1973 0  
January 25, 1978 1 *
June 8, 1978 2 **
November 8, 1978 0  
December 23, 1978 1 *
January 1, 1981 2 **
September 16, 1992 3 ***
November 10, 1992 4 ****
December 15, 1992 3 ***
January 3, 1993 6 ******
June 14, 1993 7 *******
January 3, 1995 8 ********
June 11, 1996 9 *********
November 7, 1996 8 ********
January 3, 1997 9 *********
January 3, 2001 13 *************
November 26, 2002 12 ************
December 20, 2002 13 *************
January 3, 2003 14 **************
January 3, 2007 16 ****************
January 3, 2009 17 *****************
January 22, 2009 16 ****************
January 26, 2009 17 *****************
January 3, 2013 20 ********************
January 3, 2015 20 ********************

Time series

See also


  1. Abel resigned 3 days before the end of her term, a common practice to give her successor seniority advantage.


  1. http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/fast_facts/levels_of_office/documents/senate.pdf
  2. Terkel, Amanda (November 7, 2012). "Historic Number Of Women To Serve In Next Senate". Huffington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "U.S. Senate: Art & History Home > Historical Minutes > 1964-Present > "Year of the Woman"".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Amanda Terkel (November 7, 2012). "Women In Senate: 2012 Election Ushers In Historic Number Of Female Senators". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 11, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. for the predecessors and successors of each Women Senator, click on the U.S. senator, for the number of congresses, click on the congress.

External links